Books about Foster Care
At Foster Progress, we’re readers. And we love most of all to hear directly from alumni of the foster care system. Here’s a few books we recommend to help more folks understand what our youth go through. If you have others to recommend, contact us!
This story of one little girl's journey through our foster-care system forms an intimate portrait of foster care in America and the children whose lives are forever shaped by it.
Augusten Burroughs called Kathy Harrison's memoir Another Place at the Table a "riveting and profoundly moving story of a hero, disguised as an everyday woman." In One Small Boat, Harrison tells the story of one little girl who arrived on her doorstep, and describes how caring for this child was an experience that challenged everything she thought she knew about foster-care parenting and the needs of the children she shelters.
Daisy was five when she arrived in Harrison's bustling home. Mother of three children by birth and three by adoption, and with a handful of foster kids always coming and going, Harrison had ten children under her roof at any given time. But Daisy was in many ways unique. Daisy's birth mother wasn't poor, uneducated, or drug addicted. She simply couldn't bring herself to take care of her little girl, and the effects on the child were heartrending. Daisy was unwilling to eat—even frightened of it—and seemed to have a severe speech impediment. After two weeks in Kathy's loving home, however, Daisy began to thrive. What had happened to her? And how can a foster-care parent give back all that has been taken from a child like Daisy—knowing that she might leave one day very soon? Harrison had seen many children pass through her doors, but this one touched her in a way she didn't immediately understand.
One Small Boat will be of deep interest to anyone who has nurtured and cared for a child or anyone interested in the intricate web that is our social welfare system.
An inspiring true story of the tumultuous nine years Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent in the foster care system, and how she triumphed over painful memories and real-life horrors to ultimately find her own voice.
"Sunshine, you're my baby and I'm your only mother. You must mind the one taking care of you, but she's not your mama." Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent nine years of her life in fourteen different foster homes, living by those words. As her mother spirals out of control, Ashley is left clinging to an unpredictable, dissolving relationship, all the while getting pulled deeper and deeper into the foster care system.
Painful memories of being taken away from her home quickly become consumed by real-life horrors, where Ashley is juggled between caseworkers, shuffled from school to school, and forced to endure manipulative, humiliating treatment from a very abusive foster family. In this inspiring, unforgettable memoir, Ashley finds the courage to succeed - and in doing so, discovers the power of her own voice.
In the sequel to the New York Times bestselling memoir Three Little Words, Ashley Rhodes-Courter expands on life beyond the foster care system, the joys and heartbreak with the family she’s created, and her efforts to make peace with her past.
Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent a harrowing nine years of her life in fourteen different foster homes. Her memoir, Three Little Words, captivated audiences everywhere and went on to become a New York Times bestseller. Now Ashley reveals the nuances of life after foster care: College and its assorted hijinks, including meeting “the one.” Marriage, which began with a beautiful wedding on a boat that was almost hijacked (literally) by some biological family members. Having kids—from fostering children and the heartbreak of watching them return to destructive environments, to the miraculous joy of blending biological and adopted offspring.
Whether she’s overcoming self-image issues, responding to calls asking for her to run for Senate, or dealing with continuing drama from her biological family, Ashley Rhodes-Courter never fails to impress or inspire with her authentic voice and uplifting message of hope.
Another place at the table
The startling and ultimately uplifting narrative of one woman's thirteen-year experience as a foster parent.
For more than a decade, Kathy Harrison has sheltered a shifting cast of troubled youngsters-the offspring of prostitutes and addicts; the sons and daughters of abusers; and teenage parents who aren't equipped for parenthood. All this, in addition to raising her three biological sons and two adopted daughters. What would motivate someone to give herself over to constant, largely uncompensated chaos? For Harrison, the answer is easy.
Another Place at the Table is the story of life at our social services' front lines, centered on three children who, when they come together in Harrison's home, nearly destroy it. It is the frank first-person story of a woman whose compassionate best intentions for a child are sometimes all that stand between violence and redemption.
When Cris Beam moved to Los Angeles, she thought she might volunteer just a few hours at a school for gay and transgender kids. Instead, she found herself drawn deeply into the pained and powerful group of transgirls she discovered. Transparent introduces four: Christina, Dominique, Foxxjazell, and Ariel. As they accept Cris into their world, she shows it to us―a dizzying mix of familiar teenage cliques and crushes and far less familiar challenges, such as how to morph your body on a few dollars a day. Funny, heartbreaking, defiant, and sometimes defeated, the girls form a singular community. But they struggle valiantly to resolve the gap between the way they feel inside and the way the world sees them―and who among us can’t identify with that? Beam’s astute reporting, sensitive writing, and passionate engagement with her characters place this book in the ranks of the very best narrative nonfiction.
A Chance in the world
From the day he is five-years-old and dropped off at his foster home of the next eleven years, Stephen is mentally and physically tortured. No one in the system can help him. No one can tell him if he has a family. No one can tell him why, with obvious African-American features, he has the last name of Klakowicz.
Along the way, a single faint light comes only from a neighbor’s small acts of kindness and caring—and a box of books. From one of those books he learns that he has to fight in any way he can—for victory is in the battle. His victory is to excel in school.
Against all odds, the author succeeded. He attended college, graduated, became a successful corporate executive, and married a wonderful woman with whom he established a loving family of his own. Through it, he dug voraciously through records and files and found his history, his birth family—and the ultimate disappointment as some family members embrace him, but others reject him.
Readers won’t be the same after reading this powerful story. They will share in the hurts and despair but also in the triumph against daunting obstacles. They will share this story with their family, with their friends, with their neighbors.
To The End of June
Who are the children of foster care? What, as a country, do we owe them? Cris Beam, a foster mother herself, spent five years immersed in the world of foster care looking into these questions and tracing firsthand stories. The result is To the End of June, an unforgettable portrait that takes us deep inside the lives of foster children in their search for a stable, loving family.
Beam shows us the intricacies of growing up in the system—the back-and-forth with agencies, the rootless shuffling between homes, the emotionally charged tug between foster and birth parents, the terrifying push out of foster care and into adulthood. Humanizing and challenging a broken system, To the End of June offers a tribute to resiliency and hope for real change.
A new Day One
No one can go back and make a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Rodney faced incredible hardships in the foster care system and coping with family drug problems and violence. But through sheer determination and the support of some key mentors,
Rodney was able to reach for new heights as an entrepreneur and a Yale University graduate.
A New Day One is Rodney’s story of triumph over adversity, filled with valuable principles and life lessons that are sure to inspire you into action. Whether you’re an inner-city youth or a high-networth businessman, there’s something to be learned from Rodney’s incredible story.
Faces of Foster Care
“No child thrives without a sense of place, identity, or familial nurturing. In the mid- 19th century, over 30,000 children lived on the streets of New York City, facing the harsh elements of homelessness without public or private assistance. The initial campaign to extend benefits to, and provide families for displaced children, eventually morphed into a bureaucratic agency constantly entrenched with all manner of budgetary constraints, agency mandates, policy changes and revisionist statutes. What often gets lost in the ever flowing current of systematic alternative child care are the actual children themselves. Lisa Aguirre’s brilliant Faces of Foster Care finally gives voice to the voiceless, allowing a firsthand articulation what what it means to be a ‘foster child’ placed front and center in the age-old narrative of conflict, devaluation, and dehumanization; children challenged to redefine for themselves the word, ‘family’, and ultimately, to survive. Listen closely. At once troubling, heart breaking, and full of hope, Faces of Foster Care is a must-read, if only because, as James Baldwin once brilliantly stated, ‘For these are all our children, we will all profit by or pay for what they become.’” - Carl Hancock Rux, author of the novel Asphalt and alumni of the New York City foster care system
Garbage Bag Suitcase
Shenandoah Chefalo is on a wholly dysfunctional journey through a childhood with neglectful, drug-and alcohol addicted parents. She endures numerous moves in the middle of the night with just minutes to pack, multiple changes in schools, hunger, cruelty, and loneliness. Finally at the age of 13, Shen had had enough. After being abandoned by her mother for months at her grandmother’s retirement community, she asks to be put into foster care. Surely she would fare better at a stable home than living with her mother? It turns out that it was not the storybook ending she had hoped for. When a car accident lands her in the hospital with grave injuries and no one comes to visit her during her three-week stay, she realizes she is truly all alone in the world. Overcoming many adversities, Shen became part of the 3% of all foster care children who get into college, and the 1% who graduate. Despite her numerous achievements in life though, she still suffers from the long-term effects of neglect, and the coping skills that she adapted in her childhood are not always productive in her adult life. Garbage Bag Suitcase is not only the inspiring and hair-raising story of one woman’s journey to over- come her desolate childhood, but it also presents grass-root solutions on how to revamp the broken foster care system.
The Language of Flowers (Fiction)
The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.